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Heart Matters – OTC Meds That Can Exacerbate Heart Problems

Written by Courteney

Posted on September 17, 2016 at 11:37 am

If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) or a type of cardiovascular disease, you have to live strategically to ensure a long and healthy life. That means making changes such as avoiding certain foods, getting more exercise, limiting drinking and smoking, but the caution doesn’t end there. Certain OTC medications and supplements can dangerously exasperate existing heart problems by raising blood pressure or causing interactions with heart medications, and the results could be deadly. Some medications to watch out for include:

  1. Phenylephrine-containing medications – such as certain allergy medications or hemorrhoid creams shrink blood vessels, thereby interfering with heart or stroke medications.
  2. NSAIDs – such as naproxen, ibuprofen or toradol can significantly increase blood pressure, putting you at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
  3. Decongestants – can both raise blood pressure and decrease the effectiveness of heart medications, largely because they may contain a mixture of NSAIDs and pseudoephedrine. Talk to your doctor before trying sinus or cold and flu decongestants.
  4. Migraine medications – bring pain down by constricting blood vessels in your head, which could contribute to the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  5. Some antibiotics – research illustrates that macrolide antibiotics such as azithromycin can actually change the electrical impulses of the heart, causing rapid heart rate or even an arrhythmia. Be sure to ask your doctor what kind of antibiotic would be better for your condition if you have an infection and also take heart medications.


If you have a heart condition (especially if you take heart medications) you should be extremely careful with vitamins and dietary supplements as they are not closely regulated by the FDA like medications are. Many can interfere with how well your medication will work or may worsen a heart condition. While there a few that have proven to be beneficial to the heart such as fish oil (though it is better to obtain it naturally through a diet rich in fatty fish and nuts), many supplements can cause serious problems. Some of the worst offenders that can speed up blood pressure or interact with medications are:

  • Weight loss supplements
  • John’s Wort
  • Garlic
  • Glucosamine
  • Ginseng
  • Evening primrose oil
  • Danshen
  • Dong quai

This isn’t a comprehensive list, so be sure to talk to your doctor and pharmacist before trying any OTC medications or supplements as you never know the damage they may do to an already weak heart. Thanks for visiting DocChat! If you have any health concerns, our excellent board certified doctors are standing by 24/7/365.




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